The Underestimated Split Shot Rig

As back deck tournament anglers we have all been faced with that frustrating situation where you just know that there are fish in your area but you are not able to get them to eat. You’ve tried everything from reaction strikes to the jumbo glide bait, still without results. In times like these I reach for the tried and true split shot rig.

Background

The split shot rig was designed years ago when anglers wanted to use a “finesse” Carolina rig. We are all familiar with the standard Carolina rig in which we usually use big weights and big baits. But the split shot rig is the exact opposite: small weights and small baits. Both are fished virtually the same but the benefit of the split shot rig is the power of finesse and sensitivity.

I can remember many tournaments when I was fishing from the back as a co-angler and receiving quite the lesson on fish-catching from my pro partners. There were also times in which the both of us were equally frustrated because we had seen fish in the area but could not get them to commit. In both situations I was able to pick up my spinning rod with a split shot rig and instantly start putting fish in the boat.

The Set-up

I believe the split shot rig starts with the rod. As mentioned previously, I use a spinning rod for the added sensitivity as well as the small diameter line application. I prefer a longer spinning rod at least 7ft long in a medium to medium-heavy action. The reason for the long rod is for hook set. When throwing a split shot rig you are usually faced with a good deal of line out on the cast. The long rod picks up that line quickly and allows for a good hookset. My rod of choice is the Abu Garcia Villain in the VLS71-5 model. It is a 7ft 1in rod in medium action that allows for long casts, strong hooksets, and added sensitivity compared with other spinning rods.

A good rod must be paired with a good reel. I use the Abu Garcia Revo Premier size 20 spinning reel because I never fish heavier than 8lb test line. There are certain occasions when I will increase the size of my reel to the 30 model if I am making exceptionally long casts or if I am fishing deeper than 20ft. These reels comes with 11 ball bearings and a good drag system.

The line is one of the most important features with this technique. I always use fluorocarbon for many reasons. It is more sensitive, stronger, and abrasion resistant than monofilament. I also prefer fluorocarbon over braid because of a technique called “popping”. I can’t tell you the number of fish that I have caught when my bait becomes stuck on a rock and I am able to “pop” the bait free by making a bow in the line with my hand and popping it free with the rod tip. You just can’t do this with braid. As for the size of the line, I never go heavier than 8lb test. There are even instances where I will chance using 4lb if the fish are exceptionally finicky. Remember this is a finesse technique.

My hook choice depends on the size and style of bait. If I am fishing Senko’s or worms I will usually go with an offset worm hook no larger than 1/0. If I am fishing flukes, brush hogs, or tubes I will use a wide gap tube hook no larger than 1/0. These combinations maximize my hook-up ratios which is extremely important when trying to put fish in the boat.

The weight I select depends on the depth I am fishing as well as factors like current and cover. Generally speaking I will use however much weight it takes to maintain bottom contact at all times. That is the beauty of using split shots because you can add and take away weight as the situation dictates. My weight of choice is a size 3 removable split shot. This allows me quicker adjustments on the fly.

Technique

When the Carolina rig first came out it was termed a “do-nothing” rig because the technique usually involves making a long cast and just dragging the bait back to the boat. The thought was that the weight would tick the bottom while the bait hovered off the bottom. Each time the weight would touch a rock it would cause the bait to pause or flare which would usually entice a fish to bite.

The split shot rig is generally the same. However I have found over time that there are some modifications that can add a few more bites. For instance, if I am using a fluke I will use short snaps of the rod to make the bait dart side to side before it once again settles. This imitates a dying baitfish. Another thing that I like to do is to either paint my split shots black or buy black split shots when I am using Swimming Senko’s. This makes the bait look like it is chasing something on the bottom. Since bass are predatory fish, this plays on their aggressive nature to attack.

Baits My bait preferences are dictated by the species for which I am fishing . When I am targeting smallmouth, I will usually stick to tubes, small creature baits, and grubs. These baits imitate crawfish which are one of the smallmouth’s top food sources.

When targeting largemouth I will use slightly larger baits. I prefer flukes, baby brushhogs, and senkos. These baits are somewhat larger than the smallmouth lures but smaller than traditional Carolina rig baits.

I believe that when situations get tough the split shot rig becomes a valuable technique in every fisherman’s arsenal. Its simplicity matched with its fish-catching ability makes it an incredibly useful tool to put fish in the boat. I can guarantee the next time the fishing gets tough and you put the split shot rig in your hand you will put tournament-winning fish in the boat! GAME TIME!

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